My mother strikes me as a miracle. Otherwordly, I guess. A survivor in the truest sense. Today is her birthday, and I feel close enough to enough people on OS to want to celebrate her here.
She has never been cruel to me or anyone. She has never not been there for me, no matter what hour of the day or night. She has never shown selfishness. She has never ever felt sorry for herself or shown me cowardice of any kind. She makes me giddy with adoration and amusement, every single day. Everytime she leaves the house she livens up the outside air in a way you have to see to believe. Inside, she is responsible for delighting anyone who calls or enters our door. I am convinced the day of her birth should be an international holiday, though it is not.
In February of 2008, an unrelated Cat Scan, found a Mass in the tail of her Pancreas. Soon my sister and I were in contact with Oncologists. They sounded grim, at first, but then more optimistic. She appeared a good prospect for the Whipple Procedure. After intensive googling this meant that my mother, not healthy to begin with, had at most-- five years to live and in those five years would be sickly and unable to eat most foods. The chance of this mass, with its appearance,of being benign wasn't even discussed. More googling explained why. At most, there was a 1-2 percent chance of such a mass ending up benign.
I learned then the true meanings of the words forlorn and forsaken. I would learn more about those feeling down the road, but till then, I had not fully understood them. Before such an operation would take place I was told that it was probably best to have a fine needle aspiration biopsy just to be sure.
And, so it went. I won't go into that day, and how I lost it-- prayed aloud on the godless and deserted streets of Beverly Hills. I won't talk of how, in a sense, Leonard Cohen, saved our lives. That's a story for another time. I'll just say that I prayed in a way that seems unorthodox, and I made many deals with what looked like a dark, limitless, and cruel sky. The gist of my promises: I would do anything to make my mother proud, would never waste another moment on aspiring to do so, if I got that 1 percent.
Wrecked with anxiety and greif, I entered the room where the biopsy took place and was met with the ice cold Indian Doctor. Her only words to me, " It does not present as cancer." She had poked the mass and it had deflated is what the nurse would then tell me. The nurse would then tell me and everyone else in the room that Patrick Swayze was just on the news- diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. I joked to her, " It's because my mother has yet to dirty dance,"and she laughed. For years, afterward I sent prayers out for Mr. Swayze but those didn't work. Last week, after four years, we were told that the mass still appears non cancerous. We were also told that this could change but that it is "unlikely." This is why, despite all the horrors of what would happen with the legal system, I need to not complain much.
My mother's birth, on March 30th 1939, was seen as a great gift from the heavens to her father and mother. A gorgeous girl child born after three boys.
Though my family were Orthodox Jews, my grandmother loved the Opera, and named my mother, Mariana, after her favorite Opera star.
My grandmother owned a clothes factory in Debrisen, Hungary. Those clothes weren't good enough for a princess such as her daughter . She made sure that my mother was brought to Budapest boutiques, to be fitted, with the prettiest dresses possible.
My mothers memories from 0-5 were that she could do no wrong . Sometime before turning five, she has a more vivid memory. They had a a housekeeper. The housekeeper had epilepsy. One day, the housekeeper had a seizure when cleaning the China. The China Cabinet came crashing down, and the glass in the cabinet and all the China broke to shards. My mother remembers a sinking feeling in her four year old soul, that this signified something portentous.
Then the memories are not of pretty dresses or visits to the "Condotorias" for Hungarian Pastries but of friends and neighbors coming by to case their house -- seeing what furniture or valuables they might get once the Nazis kept their promises. She remembers that my grandmother had a means to get a Visa to America , and to get them out of there, but my grandmother was so sure that they should stay put . She simply was impossible for my grandmother to fathom that such evil could envelop such fine souls as them. She sensed her naivete too late. Then memories of her father and brothers coming home bloody and bruised from a beating from Pro Nazi Hungarians.
Then more memories: The brutal sounding knocks on her door, in the middle of the night.
"Shnell ! Shnell! Shnell"
Move Move, get whatever belongings you can carry Soon after this picture was taken my mother and her family were taken to a Ghetto in Debrisen. This image gives terse detail as to her whereabouts from 5-6. She was taken in April of of 44 and liberated in April of 45.
Then more memories of unbearable hunger pangs, cattle cars, the mounds of dead bodies growing bigger every day. A Nazi pointing a gun at my grandmothers chest and my grandmother saying, " If a revered member of the German Army would murder a mother of four children than who wants to live anyway." He let her go. Potato peels for dinner.
All things being relative, and with some more learned facts, this trajectory bespeaks twists of fate, and the beating of enough ominous odd s-- that could allow the writing of the rest of this post.
It was only in the last four years that I really wanted to learn more and did. While I was being maliciously prosecuted by the Los Anglees City attorney, and while we were beset by evil with new names and uniforms, I began to delve into why my mother always said that she was liberated, while on a stalled train, by the Americans . History said that the English liberated Bergen Belsen. And why did she say that my grandfather succumbed to Typhus while in Hileslaben not Bergen Belsen? Why the train and why Hileslaben? Why did it take me so long to want to find out?
Some three years ago, I googled "Hileslaben and Strasshof and Linz" and came upon this website.
Soon after I emailed the website owner and was contacted by a liberator of this train. I told him I very much doubted that my mother was on it but could he check. Soon, I was sent the whole train's manifest and saw this.
Marmorstein Jozsef 12.11.1878 Gemzse 07.12.44(my great maternal granfather)
Marmorstein Sandor 26.11.1924 Csap 07.12.44( My great uncle)
Marmorstein-Blum Ilona 12.08.1888 Nagyecsed 07.12.44( My maternal great grandmother
Szamet Kalman 02.04.1908 Sator.Ujhely 07.12.44( My grandfather- He died of Typhus days later)
Szamet Marianna 30.03.1941 Debrecen 07.12.44(My mother)
Szamet Pal 29.09.1934 Mateszalka 07.12.44( uncle)
Szamet Samuel 03.12.1893 Satoraljaujhely 14.12.44(uncle)
Szamet Tibor 10.09.1936 Mateszalka 07.12.44(uncle)
My grandmother's name is not there but she survived too. My mother's birthdate is wrong too but what can you expect from those that want you dead.
It turned out that not only had my mother in 44, accidently(But, what story of an accident) been on a train from Debrisen to Austria(While the other two trains full of Hungarian Jews were sent straight to Aushwitz and immediately gassed.My great grandmother and most of the rest of my extended family were among them.) But that in April of 45, the Nazis had commanded that three trains be used to evacuate the most messed up looking in Bergen Belsen so the press would not get to see them since it looked as if they faced defeat. The train conducters were given orders that all in these trains were to be killed. The story goes that the conductors or engineers were given orders to have all in the train die ,including themselves, but they were not particulary suicidal . They panicked and stopped the train to discuss what the hell to do. An American troupe saw it and rescued those on the train. My mother remembers seeing her first black man that day, and as you can imagine she cannot understand racism. Here' s a picture of that day, but I'm not sure if my mother is in this picture, though one of the girls looks like her.
After a stay in France, at a refugee camp, her family, missing many, made it to Israel.
There her name was changed to Henya, and all her family took on their Hebrew names. She kept surviving , and then got encepahlitis at age 13, and was all but declared dead. The story goes that the Rabbis of the town, and the whole town prayed .One day she awoke from a long coma, with richer and curlier hair, but no ill effects when so many with the same virus were deaf or dumb or dead.
She kept persevering and after a long stretch in a pleasant orphanage(She, of course, makes it all sound wonderful,) she kept growing into a beautiful and exceedingly charming, brave, and good woman.
When she was 17, she charmed her way into being a teacher, as she didn't have a degree yet. The kids went bonkers for her and would follow her home everyday.
Once day, during this time, she got another very bad feeling. The same day of the bad feeling, she'd be told that her favorite brother had been killed, as a soldier, in the Sinai war.
She'd get a teaching degree from Yeshivah University a few years later and she'd be known for turning hooligans into angels.
Too indepedent for marriage she did it anyhow . She wanted children. Here she stands with the mother in law that despised her, for no understandable reason, and made her life much more miserable than was NECESSARY.
A small haphazard collage of the intervening years.A picture that resembles her, as of today, and will have to do because she's asleep , and I can't get a picture just now.